Damn near 30 is the space between the stretch marks lacing my hips and stomach telling my age like the grains in a tree stump. It’s the space between the smile lines framing my mouth from years of joy and sadness. It’s the space between my knees when they creak, every now and then, like an old door when I walk. It’s the space between discovering myself and learning how to apply it to life. It’s the space between 25 and the big 3-0. Damn near 30 is the space between where I am and where I am going.
With my impending birthday, I noticed something different about how my family and friends were referring to this birthday. According to my loved ones, I wasn’t turning 27. I was turning, “just shy of 30,” “around the corner from 30,” and “damn near 30.” All of a sudden, everyone around me decided to put their elementary education to use and rounded my age up. If I was complaining about my knee pain or smile lines or extra weight, the culprit to it all was my age. It wasn’t long before I started to believe the hype. I was getting old and my body was turning against me. It couldn’t be long before my life would follow suit. Right?
The area between damn near 30 and actually 30 comes with expectations that most of us ascribe to: Your body is expected to feel different from your early 20’s. You start to feel certain pains that you aren’t used to feeling after a long day, you see wrinkles pop up in places you haven’t seen them before, and you struggle to lose the extra 15 pounds from the pizza and soda that once fueled your body well enough when you were about 22. There are other expectations that come with damn near 30; i.e, getting your shit together. By your late 20’s, every aspect of adult life has probably already set in, whether negative or positive. By now, you understand your freedom and the consequences that come after you’ve made a decision freely; the importance of healthy relationships and your part in maintaining those healthy relationships; working a dead-end job or pursuing your career, and paying bills.
By the time I left college, I already created an image of how “my shit together” should look. Having my shit together looked like a successful career, two more degrees, a lucrative salary, a loving husband, a big house and traveling at my whim. I expected to have this all done by 30. Now, at 27, it looks like a Saturday night sprawled out on the couch watching HGTV with cookies and cream ice cream. But, if I’m feeling really adventurous, I may nix the tub of ice cream for a glass of wine. Who am I kidding? Make that a bottle.
So far, I have achieved two out of six goals, which would make my success rate 33%. As a self-proclaimed overachiever, I could feel like I am failing. However, the special thing about damn near 30 is that it’s not quite 30. I still have 66.33333…% or damn near 67% of my goals to achieve the way I want. Damn near 30 is this beautiful built-in margin of time you to figure things out. Every time I hear those three words, I can, also, hear horror music playing in the background as if the next three years are trying to catch me.
“I am learning everyday to allow the space between where I am and where I want to be, to inspire me and not to terrify me."
-Tracee Ellis Ross
The space between my wrinkles, my stretchmarks, my knees exist and I can’t change them. But, the space between where I am and where I want to be, I can change. I can be fearful of it or I can embrace it. I can change my mind about how it looks today and change my mind again tomorrow. We need those “damn near” spaces to exist because it gives us room to breathe, evaluate, reflect and change. So happy damn near 30th birthday to me!